This week, Mayor Daley held three public budget hearings across the city where a wide array of topics were broached. But one particular issue came up again and again: the potential closure of five of the city's mental health clinics. As regular readers may remember, the ...
This week, Mayor Daley held three public budget hearings across the city where a wide array of topics were broached. But one particular issue came up again and again: the potential closure of five of the city's mental health clinics.
As regular readers may remember, the Chicago Department of Public Health's new, high-tech billing system failed to submit bills to the state for six months last year. The resulting drop in reimbursements led the state to cut 2009 funding levels by $1.2 million. In turn, the city announced plans to shutter four of their 12 clinics. But when the origin of the funding shortfall came to light -- thanks in large part to the reporting of the Chi-Town Daily News's Alex Parker -- the Daley administration suddenly redirected some stimulus cash to keep the clinics running.
Now, the city may once again be considering closing several clinics due to a $3 million drop in state funding. And as Parker reports today, Illinois Department of Human Services officials attribute the shortfall to the same billing problems.
At last night's final budget hearing, Rev. Linda Forbes of the Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Clinics stood before Mayor Daley and noted that the billing system was implemented "despite warnings from the state ... that it would not work." "Mayor Daley," Forbes asked, "what are you going to do to stop this incompetence?" Watch her remarks:
While the mayor is all ears when the politically-connected come looking for a taxpayer subsidy, he remains mum when asked for a straight answer about whether basic services will exist in the near future. "Why should people who have mental health problems suffer because the administration screwed up?" advocate Carol Smith asked the mayor at Tuesday's meeting. "I want an answer right now." Steve Rhodes takes note of the mayor's cold response:
Daley sat silent, mouth closed with eyes straight ahead. He would not answer.
He just said nothing [...]
Has there ever been a more insensitive moment in the history of the Daley administration?
Last night was no different. People who complained about potholes and flooded sidewalks got the royal treatment, as city officials pulled them aside to take attentive notes about their concerns. The mental health advocates -- including patients clearly shaken by the ongoing uncertainty -- got the cold shoulder.
"You cannot take your money problems out on people with disabilities -- mental, physical or any other," Diana Bryant, a patient at one North Side clinic, told the mayor. "It's utterly reprehensible." Watch: